A UNHCR report on Monday aimed at identifying perceptions and attitudes towards refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants and comparing trends and shifts in public opinion since the last such survey in 2018.
According to the results, the most notable change between 2018 and 2022 appears to be a significant negative shift in attitudes towards integration, with xenophobia and racism being a major factor.
There is no doubt that this is a factor but are there others at play? Digging a bit deeper into the UNHCR report, one section shows that 28 per cent of respondents “expressed a clear xenophobic stance and wanted a limit imposed on new arrivals; expressed strong views against immigration and integration, and against granting citizenship after years to those who request it”.
At the other end of the “ideological spectrum”, a pro-humanitarian group, around 16 per cent, was against setting a limit on the numbers of new arrivals and all that goes with it.
It must be said that 28 per cent being totally against migration is a very high number. At the other end of the spectrum, we have this smaller group that clearly refuses to see that ‘open borders’ are not viable. Even the EU and the most liberal countries recognise this.
The remainder of those surveyed fell in the middle. They recognised the reasons why migrants leave their home countries, sympathise and try to help but they also recognise the reality of numbers.
According to the report, the largest of the four groups of respondents, some 30 per cent, was in favour of setting an upper limit on the number of new arrivals but was both pro-immigration and pro-integration with moderate views on citizenship.
The fourth segment, about 25 per cent, was in favour of setting an upper limit on the numbers, against both immigration and citizenship, but in favour of integration of those who are here already.
Overall, what emerges is two things: there is concern almost across the board about numbers but also a majority view that integration is a good thing. “The pro-integration groups comprise the majority of the population and their attitudes could be entry points for UNHCR to further promote its cause,” the organisation concedes.
It’s possible that in comparing perceptions with 2018, that more people now view migrants more negatively due to the increase in numbers of late. In fact, this is all we hear from government, and about how many we send back to their homes. It is rare to hear anything at all about integration. What is the government doing about it, how much time and money is being spent on it, if anything. Talking all the time about millions spent for new reception facilities and welfare handouts is only going to cause more resentment among the public and this will continue to negatively influence their perception of migrants.
There is no denying that numbers are a big issue for a small country and as long as these remain high, it will be very difficult to shift attention to other aspects of migration, such as integration.